Of the 7 species of marine turtles, 5 can be found in New Zealand's waters, all of which are classed as endangered, with some being on the verge extinction. Turtles are generally found in warmer tropical waters, but can get washed into colder areas if they are weak from injury or sickness.
Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's voluntarily started a Turtle Rehabilitation Program in 1995 where we treat sick or injured turtles found around New Zealand's waters. Green Turtles are the species most commonly brought to Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's however we have treated Hawksbill, Olive Ridley and Loggerhead turtles as well.
Caring for Turtles
Turtles brought into Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's most commonly suffer from dehydration, cold shock, and starvation. Other issues include missing limbs or large wounds, bacterial infections and fish hook or plastic pollution ingestion, to name a few.
We work closely with NZCCM (New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine) based at the Auckland Zoo, where sick turtles get given a thorough assessment which usually involves x-rays, administering fluids for rehydration and antibiotics to fight infections. Once the cause of the illness or injury is discovered, the turtles are then treated and monitored in quarantine at Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's.
To ensure that the turtles are fully rehabilitated before releasing them back into the ocean, Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's provides a temporary home for these amazing creatures for a period of time ranging between a few months to 3 years. Their time with us is usually spent in our larger fish or stingray tanks, where they are known to chase our divers around for food!
Back into the Wild!
Once the weather becomes warm enough for release, the turtles are tagged either on their flippers or satellite tagged on their shells. This is done as it allows us to learn more about the habits and migration of these incredible animals. Then Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's and the Sea Life Trust release the turtles back into the wild. Turtles are often released around the Kermedec Island, which is north of New Zealand, or the Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve.
Found a Stranded Turtle?
If you find a marine turtle on a beach, contact your local DOC office on 0800 DOC HOT